The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony

The Ethiopian coffee ceremony is an important tradition and involves much ceremony including the burning of incense as the coffee beans are pounded using a mortar and pestle and brewed in a narrow-spouted coffee pot. The apparatus for the Ethiopian coffee ceremony is placed upon a bed of long grasses and the coffee beans are roasted over a charcoal brazier in a pan. Small cups with no handles are used for serving the coffee which may be accompanied by popcorn or other food items.

The Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony is an integral part of Ethiopian life and is enjoyed by people all across the country including the non-coffee growing region.

The coffee beans are known as “buna” and the roasting is done on a flat pan made of iron, this pan is known as a “beret metad”, which basically means roasting plate. The roasting is done over a small stove using charcoal. During the roasting process of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony the coffee beans are moved around gently to allow them to roast very evenly. There is an art to do this so that the beans roast properly and when done properly everyone at the ceremony will begin to enjoy the rich aroma of the Ethiopian coffee beans as they begin to crackle and pop from the heat.

Guests at the Ethiopian coffee ceremony are allowed to savor the fine aromas as the beans are carried around on either a straw mat known as a “margegabia” or a clay plate. Guests at the Ethiopian coffee ceremony are encouraged to use their hands to fan some of the vapors to smell and enjoy the aromas.

Once the coffee beans have been sufficiently roasted and everyone has been allowed to savor the fine aromatic qualities, then the beans are crushed up into very small particles so that the Ethiopian coffee can be brewed. The crushing of the coffee beans is done using a pestle which is called “zenezena” and a mortar which is known as a “mukecha” and it is typically done on a wood or stone block.

Next the coffee beans are placed into an earthen pot (clay pot) which is known as a “Jebena” and then boiling water is poured into the coffee pot. Perhaps a small amount of spices are added to the coffee at this point in the ceremony. Spices often used include cinnamon, cloves and cardamom.

The pot is removed from the heat and at this point in the Ethiopian coffee ceremony the coffee pot is placed into a woven straw holder called a “Matot”. The particles of coffee grounds that are suspended in the beverage are now allowed to settle to the bottom of the coffee pot. The resulting beverage using coffee beans is a very strong and hearty cup of coffee which is served in small cups that have no handles. Typically sugar is added but not milk. However in most rural parts of the country salt (Coffee with salt is the most favorite for older people) is added to the coffee beverage.

During the Ethiopian coffee ceremony an incense such as frankincense is burned. This incense is usually taken out of an incense container that is known as a “Mudai”. The incense burner, which is called a “Girgira”, is the place where the incense is lit using a hot coal. The smoke of the incense burned during the Ethiopian coffee ceremony is said to carry bad spirits away if any are present. The burning of the incense adds a sacred quality to the Ethiopian coffee ceremony. This is in part due to the use of such incenses as frankincense which is also used in Ethiopian religious ceremonies.

The strong elixir made with the Ethiopian coffee beans is then served and the ceremony includes three rounds of servings. Each of these rounds has a name, with the first known as “Abol”. During this first round the coffee is strongest. After the first round more hot water is added to the coffee pot, and the second round is called “Hueletanja”, while the third is known as “Sostanja”. It is permissible to enjoy only one round of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony, or to enjoy all three rounds, though one should not participate in just two rounds.

Serving is done by the youngest child present and this is symbolic of how all of the generations in Ethiopia are integrally connected. Though the young child does the serving, it is a very skilled person who does the pouring of the coffee from the coffee pot into the cups as this is considered an art.

While enjoying the fine flavors and aromas of the Ethiopian coffee at the Ethiopian coffee ceremony various traditional foods may be served. This food is known as the “yebuna kourse” and consists of popcorn or bread.

Also served is freshly roasted barley along with seeds and peanuts, and this is known as “kolo”. A small straw table known as a “mesobwerk” may be used for this food that is served along with the Ethiopian coffee.

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